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Results of Forage Binding Survey Released
South Dakota Ag Connection - 05/16/2018

What type of forage binding material do livestock producers in the Upper Midwest prefer? And, what are the impacts if livestock consumer these materials?

Looking for answers to these commonly asked questions, SDSU Extension recently completed a survey on forage binding materials. "The goal of this survey was to evaluate producer preference for forage binding materials, feeding methods and impact of binding material on livestock performance," explained Taylor Grussing, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

Various types of net wrap or twine are used by livestock producers in the Upper Midwest who feed bound forages.

The survey was conducted online with QuestionPro Survey Software. Producers were asked to participate through iGrow, South Dakota State University websites, social media, email lists and news releases.

The results of this survey will be utilized by SDSU Extension staff for programming purposes and as they continue to pursue research on management practices to reduce negative impacts of binding consumption on livestock health and performance.

The survey was completed by 548 livestock producers across the country, including the following:

- 80 percent - beef cow/calf producers

- 5 percent - beef feedlot producers

- 2.5 percent - dairy producers

- 2 percent - sheep producers

Of those surveyed, 67 percent prefer net wrap, 26 percent of producers prefer twine and 6 percent use both net wrap and twine to bind forage.

The survey showed livestock producers implement a variety of removal methods based on feeding methods.

"By assessing forage binding material preferences and likelihood of removing these prior to feeding, incidence of consumption and possible accumulation might be determined," Grussing explained.

Results of the survey showed the following:

- 54 percent - remove net wrap or twine before feeding whole bales (in bale feeder or on the ground)

- 11 percent - remove net wrap or twine prior to grinding or processing bales

- 24 percent - do not remove net wrap or twine prior to feeding whole bales or processing bales

- 11 percent - sometimes remove binding material before feeding bales to livestock

Other observations:

- When binding materials were not removed prior to feeding, 46 percent of respondents observed livestock eating binding materials that remain on the ground.

- Even when forages are processed with binding materials still in place, long strands of plastic material can be found and when consumed by livestock can accumulate in the rumen.

- 30 percent of survey participants believe consuming net wrap may be leading cause of death

"Research shows that long-term feeding of forages, without prior removal of binding material, can cause rumen accumulation and pose challenges to livestock health," Grussing said. In fact, 41 respondents found net wrap/ twine accumulation during a postmortem exam and 30 percent of respondents believe binding materials may be a leading cause of death on their farms and ranches.

Symptoms of net wrap impaction reported by livestock producers include reduced feed intake and depressed performance.

"Overall annual average death loss on cow/calf operations is 2 percent," said Grussing.

She explained that if a greater occurrence is observed, livestock producers should contact their local veterinarian to conduct postmortem exams upon mortalities and examine animals for binding material accumulation in the G.I. tract.

Based on the results of this survey, livestock health and performance are negatively impacted when forage binding materials (net wrap and twine) are consumed.

"The obvious solution is to remove all binding prior to feeding bound forages to livestock. Yet, the constraints of increased labor and feed waste are realistic obstacles that livestock producers face when making the decision to remove binding," Grussing said.

While there are sisal and solar biodegradable binding options, the survey also showed that 86 percent of respondents would be interested in a digestible net wrap/ twine product - if it was cost effective, of equal strength to conventional binding and environmentally stable.

Overall, 58 percent of respondents are interested in learning the best management practices for feeding bound forages to livestock.

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